Sports and Climate Change

by Richard T. Stuebi

I suspect I’m one of relatively few people who’s both very concerned about climate change and crazy about sports.

By my experience, most environmental advocates are not die-hard sports fanatics. And, generally speaking, most sports fans do not seem highly attuned to environmental issues.

The former saddens me a little: I’d like to be able to speak about baseball spring training and NCAA brackets to more of my green friends. However, the latter worries me a lot, because it’s inescapably true that the ardent sports follower is a huge segment of the population — one which the environmental community has not been able to penetrate very effectively.

So, I was very pleased to see this week that this week’s edition of Sports Illustrated — a periodical with huge circulation, found in doctor’s offices, barber shops, airplane seatbacks and tire change centers across the U.S. — features climate change as its cover story.

In my view, this is a very positive development for taking the issue of climate change further mainstream. When NASCAR dads and NFL junkies start really caring about climate change, real public sector action to deal with climate change can’t be far behind.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

3 replies
  1. par4mike in Ohio
    par4mike in Ohio says:

    Thank you for this blog and super kudos to SI for that great article. I scan the net daily for new stories about climate change and this blog was the first article I’ve seen mentioning sports and climate change together. The connections between the future of sports and the possibilities of climate change are so obvious that it is amazing it has taken this long for the issue to go public. I, too, hesitate to speak to my sports friends about my environmental concerns, often because I expect their reactions to be ambivalent at best and more likely than not, hostile. But we should give our sports friends enough respect to believe they can see the obvious when it stares them in the face. There are many, many people who just don’t want to believe the man-aided climate change is real and happening for many, many reasons. And while it has been very frustrating to watch the glacial pace (pardon the pun) of environmental wakening in the public mind, eventually every person on this tiny planet will have first hand understanding. As those of us who have been aware for a while know, the sooner people do understand, the better. So as you’ve pointed out, high profile Sports Illustrated’s stance is very good news and in the long run, I hope, very significant. Thanks again!

  2. Simon Donner
    Simon Donner says:

    I too was glad to see a feature on climate change in a publication like Sports Illustrated. Though, I should point out, it is not the first time SI has written about climate change. The May 15, 2000 issue featured a short blurb called "Hot air, hot bats" about whether global warming could be the cause of the explosion in home runs. I remember this because I was the one who suggested it to the editors. I was a graduate student in atmospheric sciences, and a baseball fan, and I thought it was a funny, by that I mean funny "ha ha", coincidence that the Major League Baseball home run records happened to be broken during the warmest years in US history. I called SI thinking it was a way to get climate change mentioned in a major sports publication. They agreed. The story had some legs, getting referenced on ESPN Sportscenter, on the CBS Evening News, on the radio, etc. It took seven years, but I'm glad to see SI mentioning the issue again!

  3. Dana Dolan
    Dana Dolan says:

    Three Cheers, Richard. I'm looking forward to the day that major league sports use their influence over fans to support the environment. Sustainable buildings are a long term investement. What about enviornmentally friendly packaging of concession items? What if team mascots lent their support to local environmental non-profits? The connection to wildlife is clear: for example, the MLB has plenty of mammals (Cubs, Tigers), reptiles (Diamondbacks), birds (Cardinals, Orioles, Blue Jays), and fish (Marlins, Devil Rays). There are even some representing major natural features (Rockies) or occupations based on them (Mariners).Perhaps those teams with American Indian mascots (Braves, Indians) might garner some good will after recent periods of "politically incorrect" press. And my hometeam, the Washington Nationals, at least has Teddy Roosevelt, who was instrumental in the conservation movement.

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